Reader's Question: How do you follow a budget on a variable income?
In my last post, I shared the practical tips I have used to budget on a variable income.
Making a zero-based budget with prioritized expenses, saving for lean months, paying off debt and increasing your income are all critical to surviving a variable income.
However, the emotional impact needs to be addressed in order to thrive on a variable income.
First of all, it can be downright scary and super stressful to have different amounts of money coming in each month.
Often, there is a lot of fear, anxiety, and what if’s that play havoc with your mind.
What if there isn’t enough money to pay the bills?
What if I can’t put food on the table?
What if something happens and the income dries up?
Desperate panic sets in and you are always thinking about hustling up more work, especially in the plentiful months, constantly worrying about the slow months.
I have had all these thoughts and fears again and again throughout my career. While the fears may be valid, I don’t have to live in them and look at life through such a lens.
God always provides what you need
The most important lesson I have learned is utter and complete dependence on God’s provision which has never, ever failed.
It is true that God does provides for all of us, but when you are forced to acknowledge you have absolutely no control over the work and payment which comes in, it is much easier to see how He provides what you need at just the right time.
As a freelancer, I am reliant on God to provide the needed hours weekly. Often when the week starts, my hours look pretty bleak, but by the end of the week enough work has come in.
There has always been enough income to pay for all our monthly expenses. And enough to pay cash for my husband’s school, year after year.
Yes, there have been very dry periods and times where I’ve had to drain all my savings to pay for something. There have been many very lean months without a dollar extra to spend on unnecessary items and every purchase must be carefully thought out.
Yet, there hasn’t been even once where we’ve needed to go back into debt or borrow money from family.
There have been many times where I have completely freaked out because of the huge amounts of worry and stress, when I haven’t trusted completely.
I knew in my head that God would provide, but I haven’t always let the knowledge of past provision settle into my heart as a strong trust that God would indeed come through again.
Despite my fears and anxiety, God has always provided. Every. Single. Time.
Now, I have much more peace and confidence in God’s faithful provision, so when the fears start to raise their ugly heads again and doubts try to creep in, because my current situation looks so bleak, I am able to remind myself that God will provide what we need at the right time just as He has before.
As you know this is a Year of Rest for me, and while there was still some anxiety about cutting back my work hours, my trust in God’s provision was stronger than the fear. And you know what, He continues to give the hours that I need.
Prayer and Gratitude
Another lesson I have learned, is to pray about my needs and ask God to provide.
When I do this, I see clearly how and when God answers with His provision. Seeing specific answers to my requests leads me into a humbled gratefulness and I stop to thank God for providing.
Again. Despite any doubts or fears I had this time.
Gratitude draws me into a deeper dependence on God and causes me to look to Him sooner to provide for my next need, financial and any other need that I may have.
A sense of expectancy grows in my heart, along with peace, as I watch to see how God will provide this time and when.
Willingness to work hard
I have learned to take advantages of the opportunities God provides as a means to make more money to provide for my family.
Yes, He does provide, but in my experience He provides financially through giving more work and more opportunities. I have had to develop a willingness to work hard, sometimes when I am tired or it’s inconvenient, and be thankful for the work.
One blessing to a variable income, is you can bring more income in as long as you are willing to work more hours, which of course God gives you.
In the months of plenty, where you are able to bring in more income this is another way God is providing ahead of time for those lean months. When I think about God’s provision this way, I am much more willing to put money aside and not spend it, just because I have lots of extra money this month.
We do have the responsibility to be good stewards of the money God has given us and to work hard at the means by which He has given His provision.
Budgeting, avoiding debt, saving money, and tithing are all ways I can be a good steward of this gift and show my thankfulness to God for meeting all our needs.
Trust in times of rest
When there are not enough hours coming in during a slow period, I have the option to freak out and worry about how we will make it or I can continue to remind myself to trust God to provide what I need and be thankful for the rest He’s given.
I have had both reactions over the years.
However, especially in the last two months where I have purposely been making time to rest, I have realized it is so important for overall well being.
When God brings you periods of rest, by not bringing in more hours this week, it is vital to enjoy the rest without frantically filling the time with another 10 things to do.
Strength and peace come in the times of quiet rest, allowing your trust in God’s provision to be rooted more deeply. And again, I have seen how God continues to provide as I obey the prompting to rest. My mind is much more calm and there is far less stress about money.
If you are struggling with the desperate fears of a variable income, try asking God to provide for your needs. Watch for His gracious provision for what you need, when you need it and thank Him when He does provide.
Be a good steward of what He has given you and accept the responsibility to work hard. Depend on God to bring what you need and He will provide for you.
Do you still have questions about how you can trust God with your finances? Email me at Charissa (at) cookwithashoe (dot) com and I would be delighted to share more about my journey with trusting God to provide.
Want to see how YOU can create a successful budget?